Washinton Post - Randy Stiles learned the hard way: Having a Confederate flag tattoo that reads “Southern Pride” with a noose hanging off it isn’t a path to success.
“A lot of public ridicule came from it,” Stiles, 25, said this month as he waited to get the flag on his right forearm removed. “I’ve got to get it gone.”
Eliminating a tattoo like this takes hours under the needle and usually costs as much as $500. But Southside Tattoo in Brooklyn Park, Md., is removing the hate for free, covering up racist and gang-related tattoos as part of its mission.
A no-cost coverup fits right into Stiles’s budget. Though he got the tattoo at 18 — when he was “young and dumb,” he said — the father of three now hopes to move into management at the trucking company where he works and worries the tattoo could hold him back.
Though he’s not a racist, he said, the tattoo made him look like one.
Tattoo parlor owner Dave Cutlip, left, creates an eagle design to cover a tattoo of a Confederate flag on the arm of Randy Stiles, 25, in Brooklyn Park, Md. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
Dave Cutlip, who runs Southside, said he and his wife developed the idea of free coverups in January after a man came into his tattoo parlor hoping to get a gang tattoo removed from his face.
“I could see the hurt in his eyes,” Cutlip said.
Cutlip, 49, couldn’t help the man, it turned out, because the tattoo was too prominent. Might he be able to help someone else? He and his wife turned to Facebook, offering free coverups for racist or gang tattoos with “no questions asked.”
Portland Press Herald - “We act as a group of people who understand each other,” said former skinhead Christian Picciolini, who founded the Chicago-based Life After Hate. “We understand the motivations of where we came from and why we joined. We understand what keeps people in. And we help each other detach and disengage from that ideology and provide a support system for them as they go through that transformation.”
Founded in 2009, Life After Hate was awarded a $400,000 Justice Department grant in the closing days of the Obama administration – funding that could be endangered if the Trump administration decides to refocus a federal program combating violent extremism solely on Islamic radicals, as is being considered.
While several other grant recipients are dedicated to countering radical Muslim ideology, Life After Hate concentrates specifically on showing white extremists there’s another way.
The group operates a website where people who want to explore leaving white extremism can submit contact information. It also conducts educational and counseling programs including the Facebook group where members sometimes chat with extremists trying to change their lives, Picciolini said.
“I started the organization … because it was so difficult to leave that movement,” he said. “Even though I’d abandoned the ideology, I wasn’t ready to give up my community and my power and my identity, and I knew how hard it would be for other people to leave this type of ideology or this type of movement.”
Another group, One People’s Project, was started by Daryle Lamont Jenkins of Philadelphia. Aside from monitoring racist groups, Jenkins – who is black – confronts white nationalists at public gatherings and talks one-on-one with willing white supremacists, trying to show them there is a way other than hate. Some have never met a black, he said.
Jenkins’ work is similar to that of Daryl Davis, a black musician from Maryland who has gained notice for trying to talk people out of the Ku Klux Klan.